If You Act Like a Printer, You’ll Be Treated Like One

If You Act Like a Printer, You’ll Be Treated Like One


The definition of a successful printer is changing with the times. The updated definition is forcing printers to solve more than a manufacturing challenge. For printers who refuse to move out of their comfort zone; price will be the primary subject of conversation in every sale.

Print is a challenging business; way more challenging than it was ten years ago. Technology has disrupted the print industry in a unique way because online digital communication is replacing print as the medium of choice for a lot of communication needs.

On the positive side, many aspects of the print industry are growing as different market conditions encourage more entrepreneurship; the labels and packaging space is exploding. As personalization trends keep driving more localization and personalization, the digital print space continues to grow.

If you are still trying to win as a “traditional” printer who sells unit costs; you had better be the most efficient game in town or be willing to operate on razor thin margins (most likely both). If you’re seen as a printer; you will be treated as a printer and asked to compete on price.

You may be asking the following question; “I am a printer—what else can I be?”

Good question.

You can sell workflows, you can sell process improvement, you can sell time/labor savings, ease of use, in addition to print. You must get very curious about the workflows that print is involved with to expand the definition of who you are and what you can do for your customers. What happens before you print? What happens after you ship the print? Do you know?

When you’re only focus on the printed piece you are treated like a vendor. When you expand your focus upstream and downstream of the printed piece you have a chance to be treated like a partner.

I don’t know who said this to me, but it goes something like this: there’s always an agenda in every human interaction. If you aren’t setting the agenda, you are following someone else’s agenda. Most sales people simply react to the requests of the customer. If you’re in this mode the customer is defining the agenda, you are following it. The customer’s agenda is defining who you are and what you do. Have you ever been in an RFQ process where you feel like a complete outsider? You know some other vendor was able to greatly influence the RFQ because they set the agenda with the customer.

Here’s a very important aspect of setting the agenda with your customers. The agenda is not about you; that means it cannot be about print.

You may be asking the following question; “I’m a print sales person; if the agenda isn’t about print, what is it about?”

Good question.

The agenda is about how you can solve your customer’s workflow challenges (the stuff that’s hard before you print and the stuff that’s hard after you print). The agenda is all about your customer. The time you spend is completely for the benefit of your customer’s workflow. When you set this agenda; the customer is a willing participant because they want their challenges solved. Often you can sell software solutions that BOTH enable the print fulfillment and solve workflow challenges for your customers. These are the printers that are the most difficult to displace. Can imagine the conversation when another print sales person tries to compete on price in an account like this? The customer is forced to calculate how much it would cost to give up his process efficiencies to save a few points per unit. The defense is formidable.

I know, I know. It was much easier to just be a printer. Why do you keep telling us to be something we’re not comfortable being? I don’t like to be a nag—I’m not telling you anything you can’t feel yourselves in the marketplace. Printers aren’t going to survive. Solution providers are going to thrive.

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